Stateside COLA Expands; Rates and Regions Change
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 1997 Service members living in cost-of-living areas 8 percent above the national average will now receive a stateside cost-of-living allowance. Previous eligibility threshold was 9 percent.
Because of the changes, troops assigned in the Philadelphia/Camden/Trenton area; Oakland, Calif.; Cape May, N.J. and Fresno and Santa Clara counties, Calif.; and Joliet Army Depot, Ill., will begin receiving the allowance.
Despite the lowered threshold, some service members living in New York and Connecticut lost the stateside allowance Jan. 1. Changes in the cost of living left those areas below the 8 percent threshold.
Those who lost their COLA include members living in the Connecticut towns of Kent, Roxbury, Terryville, Thomaston, Torrington and Washington Depot. In New York, troops residing in Arlington, Beacon, Clintondale, Hopewell Junction, Hudson, Hyde Park, Kerhonksen, Kingston, Liberty, Napanoch, Poughkeepsie, Red Hook, Rhinebeck, Rome/Griffis Air Force Base and Saugerties lost their allowance.
Military personnel living in the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston metropolitan areas will continue to see allowances.
The changes are the first in the stateside COLA program since it began in July 1995. The allowance provides additional cash for goods and services in high-cost areas.
DoD spent nearly $21 million on the program in fiscal 1996, with another $13.7 million programmed for fiscal 1997. Almost 19,000 service members received a cost-of-living allowance during its first year, and DoD officials project 21,500 troops will see payments this year.
Defense officials said the area's cost of living in relation to the national average, the military member's spendable income and the number of dependent family members decide cost of living allowance amounts. They defined spendable income as the total amount of regular military compensation available for buying goods and services. This income considers taxes, insurance, housing, gifts and other contributions, and savings.
The average monthly benefit -- a set amount multiplied by the number of percentage points above the 8 percent ceiling -- depends on the member's grade, location and marital status. For example, Chicago-based service members will receive 4 percent payments. A single Army staff sergeant in Chicago with 10 years' service would receive $64 per month -- $16 for each percentage point over the 8 percent threshold.
Meanwhile, military residents in Westchester County near New York City receive a 10 percent allowance. That same staff sergeant living there would receive $210 in monthly COLA payments.
Besides receiving the stateside COLA, service members in these high-cost areas continue receiving variable housing allowances. These payments supplement standard housing allowances for service members residing in off-base housing.
MAJOR HOUSING AREA CONUS COLA INDEX COLA PAYMENT
Bridgeport, Calif. 1.09 1 percent
Fresno, Calif. 1.08 1 percent
Los Angeles 1.08 1 percent
Oakland, Calif. 1.09 2 percent
San Bernardino, Calif. 1.10 3 percent
Santa Clara County, Calif. 1.08 1 percent
San Francisco 1.09 2 percent
New Haven, Conn. 1.14 7 percent
Chicago 1.11 4 percent
Joliet Army Depot, Ill. 1.08 1 percent
Boston 1.11 4 percent
Brockton, Mass. 1.11 4 percent
Cape Cod, Mass. 1.10 3 percent
Essex County, Mass. 1.12 5 percent
Hampden County, Mass. 1.08 1 percent
South Weymouth, Mass. 1.11 4 percent
Worcester, Mass. 1.09 2 percent
Atlantic City, N.J. 1.11 4 percent
Camden, N.J. 1.09 2 percent
Cape May, N.J. 1.08 1 percent
Northern New Jersey 1.08 1 percent
Perth Amboy, N.J. 1.11 4 percent
Trenton, N.J. 1.08 1 percent
Buffalo, N.Y. 1.09 2 percent
Long Island, N.Y. 1.14 7 percent
New York City 1.12 5 percent
Westchester County, N.Y. 1.17 10 percent
Philadelphia, Pa. 1.09 2 percent
Willow Grove NAS, Pa. 1.09 2 percent
Service members living at the following nonmilitary housing area locations will receive a 3 percent COLA payment:
MASSACHUSETTS: Colrain, Greenfield, Sunderland.
Service members living at the following nonmilitary housingarea locations will receive a 1 percent COLA payment:
CALIFORNIA: Clearlake, Clearlake Park, Cobb, Columbia, Copperopolis, Fort Bragg, Glenhaven, Jamestown, Kelseyville, Lakeport, Pinecrest, Sutter Creek, Ukiah, Willits.
MASSACHUSETTS: Ashley Falls, Dalton, Lee, North Adams, Pittsfield.
MICHIGAN: Addison, Adrian, Algonac, Attica, Avoca, Blissfield, Brighton, Capac, Columbiaville, Fair Haven, Fowlerville, Howell, Lapeer, Port Huron, Saint Clair, Tecumseh.